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MCAS Results Show Slide In Scores During Pandemic

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in Malden. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in Malden. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Newly released results from the spring MCAS exams show "many more students had gaps in their knowledge of math and, to a lesser extent, English language arts" compared to their peers in the same grades who took the standardized tests before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said Tuesday.

The percentage of students in third through eighth grade receiving a score of "meeting expectations" or higher in math and English each dropped from 2019, the most recent previous year the test was given after the exams were skipped in 2020 amid the sudden pivot to remote learning.

In math, the percentage fell from 49 percent in 2019 to 33 percent in 2021, while for the English language arts test, it dropped from 52 percent in 2019 to 46 percent in 2021.

The percentage of 10th graders scoring at least in the "meeting expectations" category ticked upwards to 64 percent this year, from 61 percent in 2019. The amount of 10th grade students reaching that level on their math tests fell, however, dropping to 52 percent from 59 percent.

Families will receive their child's MCAS scores after Sept. 30, the education department said. The 2021 tests for third through eighth grades were shorter than usual, a factor the department said can cause individual student performance to vary.

MCAS scores are slated to be discussed at a Tuesday Board of Elementary and Secondary meeting, when board members are also set to vote on salary increases for Education Commissioner Jeff Riley, who currently earns a base salary of about $170,613.

While teachers unions and some advocates have called for pausing use of the MCAS tests or eliminating their use as a graduation requirement, Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday said he would be "very aggressive about supporting the ongoing process of using diagnostic tools to ensure that kids are getting the basic education that they're entitled to."

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